Does our justice system give equal treatment to rich and poor?

Relatives of a man killed in a hit and run involving Joe Senser’s car have suggested that the former Vikings star’s family is getting preferential treatment from police. Today’s Question: Does our justice system give equal treatment to rich and poor?

  • Lisa Scherber

    No – it does NOT because even filing any complaint costs money. You cannot have justice unless you can afford it.

  • Wade

    Are you kidding? Is this a real question. Our system is not fair at all. It’s highly flawed. Heck, we can’t even get the District Attorney to do their job and prosecute the poor dirt bags that have broken the law.

    Of course I’ve got a specific poor welfare receiving dirt bag in mind.

  • uptownZombie

    Sometimes it seems to, but more often than not I would say it does not. If the person killed in this case was a rich white girl the situation would have played out completely differently.

    Ever actually see a cop pull someone over in a BMW?

  • John

    The elite/rich have gotten a lot richer over the last 10 years while the poor and middle classes are deteriorating. The big banksters got away with murder and not one was arrested. While average joe middle to low class is arrested for possession of marijuana and given time.

    Come now, this is an easy one.

  • Paul


    Oh wait – you’re serious? Then the answer to your question is no.

  • Sieglinde Gassman

    The inconvenient and tragic truth is: NO!

  • Steve the Cynic

    Only the willfully blind, and snarky commedians satirizing them, would say ‘yes.’

  • justacoolcat

    Not only do the rich/well off/connected get preferential treatment, but people in certain professions seem to be above the law — if you catch my drift.

    I’ve heard that in Minnesota there is a sensitivity within the legal community to avoid the appearance of preferential treatment of high profile individuals, but that doesn’t address the myriad of other benefits that come with having money: the ability to afford top notch council, the ability to post bail, etc.

  • GaryF

    No, never have, never will be. The world isn’t fair, never was, never will be. Like I tell my teenage son, the fair is in August, ends on Labor Day.

    Do the poor have better representation in both civil and criminal court than just about any other nation? Yes.

    While the Senser case gets more complicated by the day, the victim will have superior representation in civil court.

  • No, of course they don’t. In order to win a case, you need a good lawyer, and poor people can obviously not afford good lawyers, and must rely on public defenders, who we all know to be overworked and underpaid and therefore unable to adequately defend economically disadvantaged people. Furthermore, our jury system is rigged. The attorneys choose them to be sympathetic to their side, not to be peers to the accused, which was the original point. There needs to be massive reform.

  • jon

    how many poor people are in prison vs. the rich?

    ethnic minorities vs. ethnic majorities?

    How many female sex offender suspects are found guilty vs. male suspects?

    The system isn’t fair. And it goes much deeper then rich vs. poor… look at the numbers they’ll tell you the story.

  • david

    Not even close. If you are the victim of an accident and don’t have thousands to give a lawyer for a retainer, you’re stuck hiring one of those ambulance chasers you see advertising on daytime TV. In my own case I has involved in a motorcycle accident that wasn’t my fault. My worthless lawyer wrote two letters to the car drivers insurance company, and suggested to me to take the first offer. This offer barely covered my medical expenses only (medical alone was over $35,000), then he took 1/3rd of the money leaving me to figure out how to pay the hospital bills and deal with the 6 months I was unable to work on my own.

    There seems to be two kinds of lawyers in the world. Those that are shills for big industry, and those that are not good enough to get the shill job, but feel they deserve the same paycheck.

  • Rich

    Haha I get it… This must be a rhetorical question….

  • suzie

    Of course the rich get better treatment – in what country in the world don’t they get better treatment in any and all things? To paraphrase Animal Farm, all people are equal, but the rich are more equal.

    Yes, they can afford the better (aka high priced) legal representation. Wouldn’t you get the best you can afford? The question may be, how many of those high priced lawyers ever donate their time to help the poor? It’s the courts and police that need to stay clear of the pressure from the rich and those with political clout and to administer fair and equal treatment to all.

  • Larry M.

    No, and some want to make it even more unfair by “tort reform” and “loser pays” laws..

  • Grinder

    Joe Sensor and his wife need to be publicly patty-slapped.

    ///No, never have, never will be. The world isn’t fair, never was, never will be. Like I tell my teenage son, the fair is in August, ends on Labor Day.

    Gary, (or gary with a little ‘g’ if you prefer), you are far more powerful than you give yourself credit. once you and everyone else who has handed over their power realize this, this system will no longer exist.

  • Philip

    Our “justice” system is all about lawyers making money, people remaining in elected positions of power, and winning an argument (whether or not it’s the truth). We are far more concerned about the rights of perpetrators rather than victims and over the years interpreting law has become an exercise in creative writing, such as defining what the word “is” is. We should bring back corporal punishment as a means of dealing with people who find themselves in prison for crimes such as DUI’s. This would have the effect of thinning out prison populations and yet still inflict punishment on those who commit non-violent crimes. Oh well, I’m telling of a pipe dream. We have become far too “civilized” and enlightened to actually punish people appropriately in our just American society.

  • Julie

    Absolutely not.

    The entire Senser family would be sitting in a cell right now if not for their status.

  • Curt

    Really? Everyone knows that if the rolls had been reversed, and Mrs. Senser had been hit and killed, the young man would have been already charged and in jail. Of course the Senser family has been getting special treatment. I doubt that she will ever spend a day in custody.

    Even the media is downplaying this incident. When the StarTrib had a recent story about this, they would not allow any comments from readers. When this was brought to their attention, the StarTrib stated that they don’t allow comments on stories that are under current police investigation. And yet…when there’s a shooting in North Mpls. the Strib is full of comments. There are no wealthy influential people involved in those shootings. Just common folks who have no friends in high places.

  • Logan

    Are the rich better treated and get special treatment vs the poor. Why would you even ask this question. You at MPR know that they do. We all know they do. Remember “OJ”. Where’s the law in this? What happen to gentlemen that got run over rights? We know, we all know that Senser and his family is getting the best treatment there is. Watch the news, after all that has happen, the news channel in Minnesota runs a clip on how wonderful Senser and his family is. What does that have to do with running over someone, dragging their body for 30 to 40 feet and then not stopping and driving off. A crime is a crime. We all know that Senser’s wife will not be charged with ANYTHING. It’s sad but true. Does the justice system work? Absolutely NO!!. It does not work when rich spoil wifes hides behind their lawyers desk. It does not work when people think that money will buy them out of anything even killing someone. I believe that the majority of the middle and lower class have no faith in our justice system anymore. When one person’s life is worth more then anothers because of their status. All this talk about Senser and his family through the media I haven’t yet seen any news channel in Minnesota including MPR yes MPR talk about the Asian guy, his families thoughts, his life, and the effects this has on our Asian friends in Minnesota. If this wold have been a black, asian, hispanic, or any other group of minorities running over Senser’s wife, that person would have been hunted down, thrown in jailed and charged with MURDER. And that is the truth about our so call wondeful, lawfull, and equal system.

  • Jim Shapiro

    That’s a joke question, right?

  • Susan WB

    I wonder how many people who are busy complaining about the gross inadequacies of our justice system would be willing to pay higher taxes to hire more public defenders and/or pay them higher salaries to attract and retain better-skilled people to the job?

    Just sayin, you get what you pay for.

  • Sheri

    The written rules & principles of the judicial system presume an even playing field. But we walk into the courtroom carrying the inequities of society with us. Some with resources know the rules, the vocabulary and can afford the outfits. Others struggle to pay for child care, parking and lost wages during court proceedings. Then all of us, juries and judges, view the players through our own biases.

  • P. Nielsen

    Of course it does, with the exception that on few occasions, a few will be used to try and convince the masses that our justice system is fair and impartial. Money and power talk.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Susan WB -Touche’. How about a mandatory public defender paid internship in order to get licensed to practice? No, that would be restricting the economic rights of individuals. So I guess we need to come to terms with the fact that this country isn’t really about justice, it’s about freedom. The freedom to make as much money as you can, with as few responsibilities to society as possible. Great.

  • Joanna

    I feel so deeply for the family and friends of the man who was killed. To their loss is added the insult of being treated as if they don’t even deserve to be informed of what the police know. The comments here show that the corruption of the system is so pervasive that most of us even laugh at this question. This breaks my heart.

  • Chuck

    No, of course not. I’m surprised you would even ask such an obvious question.

  • Joyce

    Money = Justice. Case Closed!

  • Gordon near Two Harbors

    “Equal justice for all” has never been more than words on paper in America. There are many people, including some politicians, who actively work to prevent real justice. Those with money or “connections” have always been able to get off the hook, apart from a few notorious exceptions.

  • Bill

    NO, it does not! See “The Economist”, June 25, 2011; P.40.

    A World Justice Project report released June 13, 2011, ranks the American

    justice system well in some areas but in “justice for all” it is ranked 21st of

    66 countries around the World, just behind the Czech Republic and ahead of Jordan. The primary problem is the pre-trial phase known as “discovery”.

    “The right to discovery has been used by aggressive lawyers not just to find

    pieces of information, but to exhaust and impoverish adversaries through

    endless motions for more”.

    It has long been common knowledge that a person generally has a better chance of being found innocent by being guilty and able to hire a good attorney, than they have if innocent and do not have the resources to hire an equally good attorney.

  • Candi

    Heck no! Willie Nelson got off for pot possession in Texas near the U.S./Mexico border for $500 and 30 days of clean livin’. The prosecuter only wanted $100 and a song, blatently admitting he wanted leniency because of who he was prosecuting. I can’t believe Willie only travels with a small amount, either, meaning if it was anyone else, they would have been charged with intent to distribute, as well. I imagine if his name was Juan Valdez and/or not a famous musician, the penalty would have been very different.

  • Jim

    No! If you are poor and arrested you will end up taking a plea bargain, Even is you are innocent. You will be unemployable for life because of your criminal record. You overworked public defender will tell you to plead so they can not fit in a trial. You will be told to plead or you never see freedom again. If you are rich enough to have a lawyer on retainer you will be fine.

  • Bill

    No, it does not. Also, when dealing with attorneys there are too many times when “only the attorney(s) wins”. While a minor matter compared to the one being considered, in 2005 we left our female Black Lab at a local boarding kennel for three days. When we returned to pick her up the dog returned to us was a different dog. The kennel owner would not admit it. I hired an attorney. Although I did not originally think I would be able to get one, during a 16 month back and forth letter writing process between our attorney and the kennel owner’s, I was able to obtain a DNA test that proved the dog was a different dog. To us our dog was, and is, part of our family. Legally, they are nothing but property. I spent more on attorney’s fees than I am willing to admit.

    My only satisfaction was a mediated settlement in which the kennel owner

    admitted it was a different dog but “didn’t know what happened”. The kennel owner paid only the cost of the DNA test and for an initial veterinary visit.

  • Mira

    Our legal system in no way treats the rich and poor equally. We have a LEGAL system, not a JUSTICE system. In our system, you will not necessarily end up with a ‘just’ or fair ruling. Within our system, the more money you have, the greater your chances of having access to expert legal advice. Access to savvy legal advice increases your chances of receiving an outcome that is more favorable to you. Lack of money results in the poor rarely have the same level of access to legal services, or favorable outcomes, as the privileged.

  • Eric

    You are kidding, right?

  • Tom

    I don’t believe there has been a time in history anywhere on this planet, where rich and poor were ever treat equally. The justice system of the United States is no different nor is it immune.

  • EAL

    A few facts. Firs t, our legal system is based upon dispute resolution between parties and not to determine right or wrong. An individual is either guilty or not guilty. The use of the term “innocent” is vastly incorrect and the general media should cease the practice when reporting. One would be surprised at how much pro-brono work is done by lawyers. Perfect? Of course. Then of course, I would challenge any individual to name a country with a better legal system? It is easy to complain, much more difficult to provide solutions.

  • Kay

    It may be that as a general matter, the rich have better access to justice than the poor. However, to use a general stereotype as an explanation for a particular situation is no more logical than claiming that a tornado is caused by climate change.

    There are many reasons why cases turn out different ways. In a given situation, a person’s level of wealth may have nothing to do with it either way – it may simply be the facts, such as leaving the scene while under the influence of alcohol, which makes it tougher for police to prove criminal causation in an accident. People of all income levels get away with driving drunk if they are not caught by police while still inebriated.

  • No. A simple example: If the system were equal; fines would be based on income, or home value, or business revenue, instead on flat rates.

    A speeding ticket would cost the waitress making $10K a hundred dollars and the $1M business executive would pay $10,000.

  • Bill Gerrells

    We are entitled to as much justice as we can afford.

    With “tort reform” such as the Texas bill wherein the loser pays, there will be no justice for anyone who sues a wealthy individual, business or corporation.

  • GregX

    Fair is a sliding scale depending on who you are, weather the police/courts know that and what the crime is. When you are one with authority ( money, fame, connections) the process follows its proscrived steps and all the nicities are followed. But … until they know you are somone … you pretty much get dealt with at the whims of the individuals processing you. Sometimes they have time and staff to do it “right”. Other times, they have some jack-booted nut-job bean-counter telling them that if they don’t “process” the inbound and in-system participants faster – there’ll be hell to pay. We have a couple choices – unfortunately -as a group – we don’t like any of the options. so…. commiting a minor crime is just another step in to poverty. Crime and Chronic Health problems – the “entry point” to the bottom of the pile.

  • Terence

    The “nos” have it!

    You should ask what we think about trendy doublethink pleas for the hard-pressed and middle class–one group now–such as the pleading “enough evidence for a jury to convict but pleading innocent”… to avoid a trial, and get probation instead of incarceration.

    Pro atheletes and movie celebs, investment scammers, all seem to rely on the leniency and ability to pay a fine instead of doing time..unless they’ve harmed others in their financial class such as Bernie Madoff.

  • John P.

    Are bears Catholic?

  • Manuel Vivas

    A person is innocent until he runs out of money.

  • Douglas R. Whitney

    No…it does not. Our system of justice is flawed. Please tell me were there is a better one on this planet.

    Life IS. It is not fair, it just IS. For most of us, life with all of its flaws beats the alternative. Humanity requires that each of us do our best to be as fair as possible. Our constitutional form of justice represents the best humans can do in this regard. It is up to the humans within the system to do our best to strive for fairness and justice. I believe this is more prevalent in the United States system of justice than any where else.

    We often fail.

  • camden

    No, a few years back I attended court for a minor offense, The city prosecutor told me that because I was enrolled in college and was a “good kid”, that they were willing to drop the case. This just goes to show that people are still stuck in social and economical classes, and even our government is will to treat the groups differently.

  • Steve the Cynic

    “Life is not fair!” is an objectively accurate observation that too easily becomes an excuse for tolerating injustice.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Douglas R. Whitney – “Please tell me were there is a better one (legal system) on this planet.”

    You sound like a lawyer.

    OK. Let’s see. How about every civilized country on the planet (the vast majority) that has abolished capital punishment, which we still use to disproportionately kill minorities and those that can’t afford “justice”.

    What a rectum.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Douglas R. Whitney –

    Mea Culpa re the anatomically descriptive verbal assault. 🙂

  • Dick

    Thank God it doesn’t.

  • Mary


    However the aspiration must be realized everyday in every possible way.

  • Steve the Cynic

    “Thank God it doesn’t.”

    What’s that supposed to mean?